Update to the Note: As I say in the post, it's more complicated than that.
This is the first in a series of posts responding to Rod Dreher's The Benedict Option wherein Rod lays out a plan for remaining faithful to orthodoxy in a culture increasingly hostile to religion.
In order to prevent this from becoming a tl;dr post, let me give my sources here and then go straight into a brief analysis.
- Wikipedia: The Catholic Church and Slavery
- Catholicism.org: Catholicism and the Old South
- The Journal of Southern Religion: Catholicism in the Early South
- Catholic University of America: Whites and Blacks in the Antebellum Catholic Church
The world is a mess and it's tough to cling to Catholic orthodoxy while surrounded by temptations, ignorant attacks and criticism. But then the world has always been such a place. Each time has it's own problems, whether that's sex-crazed progressives trying to force priests to marry people to quadrupeds* or it's Antebellum America where we practiced slavery.
The Church was conflicted on slavery. While for the most part, it was anti-slavery, there were members of the clergy who were not. It was very complicated and didn't fall along simple lines. Almost nothing the modern narrative holds forth about slavery is clearly true.
For example, in the 1830s, Virginia, who would later house the capital of the Confederacy, missed abolishing slavery by a single vote. Robert E. Lee freed his father's slaves after the Confederates' victory at Fredericksburg while U. S. Grant had three during the war. In fact, after the fall of Richmond, his wife came to visit and brought one of the slaves. That meant that the only slave in Richmond belonged to the victorious Union general.
The Pope was against slavery, but gave solace to Jefferson Davis while he was in prison after the war. Nothing about the topic is simple or clear-cut.
The Pope was sympathetic to Jefferson Davis because he felt, probably rightly so, that despite slavery, the South was more supportive of the Church than the North. Just as Pope Francis had a pleasant visit with President Obama, who eagerly financed the American Auschwitz that is Planned Parenthood, Pius IX took a much longer-term view and, as far as I can tell, tried to focus on areas of agreement rather than pitching a fit over slavery. Had he done so, it's not clear that things would have ended well for the Church, whose mission will always be ongoing rather than immediate.
That's the way things have always been and always will be. We will forever have to deal with imperfect people, imperfect cultures and imperfect and uneven clergy. We may have the Truth, but in every era, there's some part of the culture that will deny and attack the Truth.
At issue is what to do about it. The modern world, where progressives pretty much own the culture and hold simplistic, binary views about sexual social justice** is not different in principle from the Antebellum US where most Democrats held simplistic, binary views on the humanity of blacks. The Church was incompatible then and it's incompatible now. So what?
I'm starting to steal from my next post, so I'll end it with this.
All things considered, since I must live in a world that is not completely in harmony with my faith, I'd much rather live the one where the people attacking me are doing so for sexual freedom than slavery. The culture is indeed hostile to parts of the Church, but we've had worse.
|Blessed Pope Pius IX. I would not have wanted to be in his shoes.|
* - Here, I anticipate the next battle in the war.
** - If you oppose gay marriage, it's because you're a hateful homophobe. This is followed by fingers being stuck in ears and a shouted "LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA!"